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CITY GOVERNMENT: City likely to re-up with VenuWorks for Sanford Center

BEMIDJI -- Although the Bemidji City Council previously considered dumping its contract with VenuWorks for management of the Sanford Center, an advisory board meeting Monday indicated the city will likely continue to contract with the Iowa-based arena management company.

The Sanford Center Advisory Board could not make an official recommendation to the City Council since not enough members were present Monday to form a quorum, but an unofficial "consensus" approved a new contract between VenuWorks and the city.

City Manager John Chattin, who played a lead role in contract negotiations, said after the meeting the new five-year terms allow more leeway for the city should they wish to exit the contract. The new contract allows the city to terminate for any reason, at any time and with only 90 days notice, whereas the old contract allowed termination on the third and fourth anniversaries with 150 days notice.

The city also stands to save a significant amount of money with the new contract, Chattin said.

"There's far fewer fees involved in this contract than the previous one and it's locked in for five years at the base rate, so I think it's a good deal for the city," he said.

Sanford Center director Curtis Webb will poll the absent Advisory Board members via email regarding their stance on the contract, Chattin said. The council will vote on whether to approve the contract at its Aug. 18 regular meeting, he said.

Axemen ask for debt forgiveness

The advisory board also discussed a different contract Monday -- between the Sanford Center and the Bemidji Axemen Indoor Football League team. Webb said the issue of approximately $14,000 the Axemen owe to the center must be resolved before negotiations begin on renewing the contract. Previously, the known debt total stood at $12,000, but Webb said the number was closer to $14,000 because of additional unpaid bills for the field turf used by the team.

The Axemen recently requested that the center forgive their debt, Webb said.

"They hit me up last week asking us to forgive the $14,000," he said. While the center isn't going to simply forgive the debt outright, staff will investigate other ways to help, Webb said.

"We'll look at possibly refinancing it or going some other route with that," he said.

Zach Kayser
Zach Kayser covers local government and city issues for the Pioneer. He previously worked for the Wadena Pioneer Journal, and is an alumni of the University of Minnesota, Morris. 
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